Apple in iOS 12 introduced a new Live Listen feature that's designed to turn the iPhone into a remote microphone for the AirPods.

Live Listen has been around for years for MFi-compatible hearing aids, but it's only with the addition of AirPods support that it became available for general iOS users.


As an enterprising individual discovered on Reddit, the AirPods Live Listen feature can be used as a spying device because it uses the iPhone as a microphone and relays what the iPhone picks up to the AirPods, even if the AirPods are in another room.

So, if you have AirPods (or any other Bluetooth headphones), you can enable Live Listen, leave your phone in one room, and then go into another room, with the iPhone available to relay any "secret" conversations. You do need to be in Bluetooth range, of course, but with AirPods, that can be a decent distance.

We're sure no MacRumors readers are going to use this feature for nefarious purposes, but it's certainly a useful tidbit to be aware of. Live Listen can be enabled in Control Center by following these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Tap on Control Center
  3. Tap Customize Controls
  4. Tap the "+" button next to "Hearing."

Once that's enabled, open up the Control Center, tap on the little ear icon, and then tap Live Listen to turn it on. You'll be able to hear people who are speaking near your iPhone.

Live Listen with AirPods, hearing aids, or other Bluetooth headphones is an invaluable tool for those who have hearing issues, but everyone should be aware that any iPhone can be turned into a remote listening device.

Related Roundup: AirPods 3
Buyer's Guide: AirPods (Buy Now)
Related Forum: AirPods

Top Rated Comments

rick987611 Avatar
45 months ago
If you wanted to record a conversation there are many ways to do it more discreetly that don’t require you leaving a $700+ device with all your personal data away from you.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Schwyz Avatar
45 months ago
We're sure no MacRumors readers are going to use this feature for nefarious purposes,
*EVIL LAUGH*

...

Ohh noo... absolutely not a chance. :)
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tbrewster Avatar
45 months ago
George is getting curious!
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Clix Pix Avatar
45 months ago
Sorry, folks, but as someone who has been hearing-impaired since birth and who has been using various hearing aids since age six (which was a long time ago) I am a little taken-aback and maybe even a little offended at the terminology here in this thread, both in the title and the posts. I think some clarification is needed.

IMO it is really inaccurate and incorrect, not to mention misuse, of the term "hearing aid" when used to describe someone's phone, Air Pods or any other device being set to pick up sounds and perhaps verbal conversations when the owner (an individual who presumably in fact has normal hearing) is elsewhere. As already indicated in the thread, such use of a digital device is actually just with the intent of hearing something that was not meant for one's ears at all, whether intentionally so or not. That is very different from a hearing-impaired individual who needs some assistance even just to hear everyday sounds with any clarity at all. A "hearing aid" has traditionally been a physical device worn on the head/in the ears specifically designed to assist someone who is hearing-impaired to be able to hear with whatever residual hearing they might have, perhaps even to be able to discern and interpret the spoken word. There are different types of hearing loss and different degrees of it, of course. People who are profoundly deaf do not usually benefit from standard hearing aids, while those who have hearing loss in varying degrees, whether congenital or developed later in life, may benefit to some extent, depending upon the cause of the hearing loss in the first place.

This "live listen" feature that Apple offers can indeed be very useful to those who wear actual hearing aids, but please don't refer to it -- that particular feature -- as a "hearing aid," because it is not. It can work with actual physical digital hearing aids, as mentioned in the thread, but in and of itself it is not a "hearing aid" per se, especially when considering those who are not hearing-impaired, who don't need such assistance. With the use of Air Pods and a strategically placed iPhone, this is indeed merely a way of listening in on something -- i.e., a fancy new way for anyone with normal hearing (or with hearing assisted by actual hearing aids) to listen to things which may or may not be intended for them to hear at all.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mmomega Avatar
45 months ago
Leave your $1000 alone on a table so you can eavesdrop on someones conversation deserves to jacked.
Only a $1,000 ?
You must be talking about that 6Plus



now I'm wondering ..... How much does my car cost that I leave sitting outside of my house or in a parking lot unattended?
****, I have to run and make sure my house is still where I left it this morning!! What was I thinking leaving it all by itself?!



the /sarcasm
the /troofthough
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
japanime Avatar
45 months ago
The sound you're hearing while eavesdropping on me when you leave the room? That's me "accidentally" knocking your unattended iPhone onto the concrete floor. :D
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

macbook air m2

Exclusive: Apple Plans to Launch MacBook Air With M2 Chip on July 15

Wednesday June 29, 2022 5:23 pm PDT by
The redesigned MacBook Air with the all-new M2 Apple silicon chip will be available for customers starting Friday, July 15, MacRumors has learned from a retail source. The new MacBook Air was announced and previewed during WWDC earlier this month, with Apple stating availability will begin in July. The MacBook Air features a redesigned body that is thinner and lighter than the previous...
Mac Studio IO

Apple Begins Selling Refurbished Mac Studio Models

Thursday June 30, 2022 7:42 pm PDT by
Apple today began selling refurbished Mac Studio models for the first time in the United States, Canada, and select European countries, such as Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. In the United States, two refurbished Mac Studio configurations are currently available, including one with the M1 Max chip (10-core CPU and 24-core GPU) for...
top stories 2jul2022

Top Stories: M2 MacBook Air Release Date, New HomePod Rumor, and More

Saturday July 2, 2022 6:00 am PDT by
The M2 MacBook Pro has started making its way into customers' hands and we're learning more about how it performs in a variety of situations, but all eyes are really on the upcoming M2 MacBook Air which has seen a complete redesign and should be arriving in a couple of weeks. Other top stories this week included a host of product rumors including additional M2 and even M3 Macs, an updated...
original iphone 2007

15 Years Ago Today, the iPhone Went On Sale

Wednesday June 29, 2022 4:43 am PDT by
Fifteen years ago to this day, the iPhone, the revolutionary device presented to the world by the late Steve Jobs, officially went on sale. The first iPhone was announced by Steve Jobs on January 9, 2007, and went on sale on June 29, 2007. "An iPod, a phone, an internet mobile communicator... these are not three separate devices," Jobs famously said. "Today, Apple is going to reinvent the...
rootbug

Major macOS High Sierra Bug Allows Full Admin Access Without Password - How to Fix [Updated]

Tuesday November 28, 2017 12:33 pm PST by
There appears to be a serious bug in macOS High Sierra that enables the root superuser on a Mac with a blank password and no security check. The bug, discovered by developer Lemi Ergin, lets anyone log into an admin account using the username "root" with no password. This works when attempting to access an administrator's account on an unlocked Mac, and it also provides access at the login...